Israel is allowing Qatari funds to enter the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in order to prevent a serious deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory, a senior Israeli official said Thursday, as a second tranche of funds was said due to be dispensed in the enclave.
The comments came as the Gulf state’s envoy to Gaza was set to arrive there later in the day with $15 million to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in the coastal enclave, according to the Ynet news site.
The Israeli approval of the transfer of $90 million in total from Qatar to Gaza came amid months-long violence along the border between Israel and the Strip and as economic and humanitarian conditions in the territory deteriorated.
In a briefing to reporters, the Israeli official blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to the West Bank-based leader’s decision earlier this year to cut off funding to the enclave as part of his Fatah party’s ongoing feud with Hamas.
“[Abbas] decided to choke Gaza and he created the problem,” the official said.
Israel therefore had no choice but to accept the Qatari funds in order “to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza, the official said.
With the declining conditions in Gaza impacting Israel, such as the flow of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean, the official said a question arose of which funds should be allocated to the enclave. He said Israel was willing to accept the Qatari funds, but only if allowed to monitor its distribution.
“We want to get a photo of a signature and a fingerprint. The Qatari envoy is transferring this data in an orderly manner and thus we know where the money is going,” the official said.
The first batch of Qatari money to arrive in Gaza last month came as part of a reported deal between Israel and Hamas that would see the terror group rein in weekly clashes along the border in return for an easing of the Israeli blockade on the Strip. Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons smuggling.
Exclusive: 3 suitcases w 15 million dollars in cash entered Gaza today w the qatari envoy through Israel (Erez crossing point). The money goes to Hamas, to pay salaries of civil employees. Exclusive pic: pic.twitter.com/asmrOP0YFu
— Gal Berger גל ברגר (@galberger) November 8, 2018
Despite the apparent understanding, the arrival of the Qatari funds in Gaza was followed days later by the largest exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave.
That round of fighting ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
Though clashes on the border have since continued, they have been less violent and smaller in size than past protests.
“We’re at a moment of calming and I don’t know if it will continue,” the Israeli official said.
He said any long-term truce between Israel and Hamas must include the return of Israeli citizens and the bodies of soldiers being held in Gaza by Hamas, as well as oversight of a proposed port in Cyprus to send goods to the Strip.